William C Gilman.

The celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town of Norwich, Connecticut, and of the incorporation of the city, the one hundred and twenty-fifth, July 4, 5, 6, 1909: online

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Online LibraryWilliam C GilmanThe celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town of Norwich, Connecticut, and of the incorporation of the city, the one hundred and twenty-fifth, July 4, 5, 6, 1909: → online text (page 15 of 19)
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land. Reformation has begun in the observance of the
Fourth. Our city will have 150 extra policemen to prevent
explosives this year, but the saloons will do much more
damage if they are not closed.

All good centers about a church, about her altars and
issues from her doors. We do not know the value of
Methodism to this community and city. In 1790 the first
Methodist sermon was preached in Norwich. The first
Methodist church was here on Bean Hill. The congregation
worshipped first in the old academy just below here.
Righteousness is still to be exalted because of this church.

At Christ Episcopal Church Sunday morning, Rev.
J. Newton Perkins of New York, formerly of this city,
occupied the pulpit and preached from Isaiah 35:1. "The
wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them ;
and th'e desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose." He
reviewed the history of the Episcopal church in this coun-
try and its adverse reception in this state. While Puritan-
ism was taking deep root in Connecticut it is not surprising
that a period of eighty-eight years elapsed after the settle-
ment of the town before any one had the courage to open
a prayer book or suggest a liturgical service in Norwich.

It is not surprising that out of New England Congre-
gationalism came the man who was destined to be the
pioneer Episcopal missionary in this wilderness as well as
the father of the Episcopal church in this town.

Mr. Perkins referred to the laying of the cornerstone of
the third edifice of this venerable parish by the first bishop
of Delaware, who as a lad had been educated here. The
building surpassed in architectural design any structure in
the city. On a stone table which stood beneath the triple
lancets of the chancel window for years there was the name
of Ebenezer Punderson, who for four years had been a


Congregational minister in North Salem, but relinquished
his charge and sought ordination from the bishop of London.
He was assigned the missionary post of North Groton,
Norwich and Hebron and during thirty years he failed to
officiate on only one Sunday. He raised up eleven churches
and became pastor of this church in 1749, remaining two

The Rev. John Tyler, also received holy orders from
the lord bishop of London, was settled as rector in 1769
and retained the office for fifty-four years.

In 1758 Christ church was named and in 1789 the
parish removed to Main street where the church was con-
secrated in 1791 by Bishop Seabury. The old church was
removed to Salem in 1830, the second church having been
consecrated in 1829. The cornerstone of the present church
was laid in 1846 and the church consecrated by Bishop
Brownell in 1849. On July n, 1882, the consecration of
St. Andrew's church in Greeneville took place.

That the ministrations of succeeding pastors of this
flock have not been fruitless is witnessed by the fact that
four bishops of our church and eighteen ministers of the
gospel received their early education in this parish.
Of this goodly number, all but two have gone to their

At the Universalist Church, Sunday morning, Rev.
Joseph F. Cobb, pastor, preached from the text Deut. 4:32,
"Ask now of the days that are past," and said :

As a town we are celebrating the 25oth anniversary
of its birth, and we are to-day to consider the relationship
of this church to the town. As we look over more than
a hundred years since Universalism was first preached in
this town we shall find that almost undreamed of changes
have taken place in the thought and temper of the inhab-
itants in regard to religion. It will not be my purpose to
enter into any theological argument at this time, but simply
to rehearse for you the historical setting of this church
and society.


To-day Universalists believe in (i) the universal
fatherhood of God ; (2) the spiritual authority and leader-
ship of His Son, Jesus Christ; (3) the trustworthiness of
the Bible as containing a revelation from God ; (4) the cer-
tainty of just retribution for sin; (5) the final harmony of
all souls with God.

The Universalist church stands for Christian manhood
and womanhood. You will find a reason for living cor-
rectly, justly and truly in the words that are over the
entrance to this building: 'We trust in the living God who
is the Saviour of all men." I. Tim. 4: 10.

The first American preacher of Universalism was Dr.
George de Benneville, born 1703, died 1793, who was both
a physician and preacher. In 1741 he came to America and
at Olney, Penn., built a house with a hall seating fifty
people, in which he often preached.

Rev. John Murray is the father of our organized church.
He came to America in 1770, and in 1772 he came to Nor-
wich and preached in the great Meeting House occupied
by Dr. Lord (First Congregational).

As often as once or twice a year, for several successive
years, Mr. Murray paid visits to this town and preached.
He reckoned among his early and steadfast friends and a
believer in the final salvation of all men Rev. John Tyler,
then rector of Christ church (Episcopal).

About the year 1791 a Universalist society was formed
in this town. Not much is known about this early society,
but it is quite certain that the society was in operation when
Rev. Elhanan Winchester, an eloquent preacher of Univer-
salism, visited Norwich in the year 1794. After the death
of Mr. Winchester the doctrine of Universalism did not
seem to advance. Many of the believers attended the First
church and others the Episcopal church, where courtesy and
liberality were extended towards them.

The first clergyman, after this season of spiritual declen-
sion, to preach the restitution of all things and arouse the
sleeping brotherhood of that faith, seems to have been Rev.
Edward Mitchell of New York. New life and vigor seemed
to have been put into the believers in universal salvation,


and they began to bestir themselves for another effort.
Accordingly Rev. Hosea Ballou, 2d, then of Stafford,
preached several times from 1817 to 1820.

Toward the close of the year 1820 the present Univer-
salist society was organized, under the name of the Society
of United Christian Friends in the towns of Norwich,
Preston and Groton.

In the spring of 1821 Rev. Charles Hudson was engaged
to preach here one-fourth of the time for a year, but
remained until 1823.

The church building (that is now a dwelling house
on Cliff street) was erected on the site where we are now,
and on July 21, 1821, was solemnly dedicated to the worship
of the one true "God who is the Saviour of all men, espe-
cially of those who believe." Rev. Edward Mitchell
preached the dedication sermon. In the spring of 1812,
by the judicious labors of Mr. Hudson a Sabbath school
was opened, thought to be the first Universalist school in
the state and among the first in America.

Rev. Zephaniah Grossman preached one-fourth of the
time for" a year, 1823-1824. In April and May, 1825, arrange-
ment was made with Rev. Zelotes Fuller to preach half the
time for a year. He continued to July, 1827. From 1827
to 1834 there was no settled pastor. In October, 1834, Rev.
Asher Moore, then of New London, was engaged to preach
once a month for a year. In the fall of 1835 Rev. John H.
Gibson was called to the pastorate and remained less than
two years. It was during his pastorate that the Sabbath
school was formed that continues to the present time.

It was also during his ministry that the name of the
society was changed to that which it now bears, viz., "The
First Universalist Society in Norwich." In 1842 an act of
the legislature was obtained legalizing the change and also
the proceedings of the society to that time under its new

From 1836 to July, 1838, the society was without a
settled pastor, yet during that period a church was organ-
ized on the 6th of February, 1838, through the influence of


Mr. Gerard Bushnell, then a member of the society, but
who later became a Universalist minister.

In July, 1838, Rev. Henry Lyon became the pastor and
continued until April, 1840. In the summer of 1840 Rev.
J. V. Wilson succeeded to the pastorate, under whose en-
couragement, advice and material aid this present building
(which we are to leave July n, 1909) was erected. There
were 202 contributors. The bricks were made by a Mr.
Standish of Preston. The building committee was Jedediah
Spaulding, Charles Denison, Theodore F. Albertson, Caleb
Miller and Thomas Potter. The edifice was completed and
dedicated in the fall of 1841.

The sermon was preached by Rev. W. S. Balch of New
York. Among the workers of 1841 now living are Mrs.
Hempstead, Mrs. Hill and Mrs. Crocker. The pastorate of
Rev. Mr. Wilson terminated in the early part of 1842. He
was succeeded by Rev. R. O. Williams, who served to the
autumn of 1844. November 5, 1845, Rev. L. C. Brown was
installed as pastor, resigning in September, 1848. January
n, 1847, the society voted to buy more land and enlarge the
church building.

October, 1848, Rev. Elhanan Winchester Reynolds
commenced his labors here and was installed pastor Novem-
ber 15, 1848, at which time this building, which had been
enlarged, was dedicated. Mr. Reynolds resigned in Septem-
ber, 1850. Rev. A. L. Loveland immediately succeeded him,
serving until October i, 1853.

Rev. Benjamin Whittemore, the honored, beloved and
revered pastor of this society for eight years, became the
leader of this people in April, 1854, serving until the spring
of 1862.

After the resignation of Rev. Mr. Whittemore, Rev.
R. P. Ambler accepted a call on April 15, 1862, remaining
until May, 1865.

Under the pastorate of Rev. J. Riley Johnson, who
began his duties October 16, 1865, the church was reorgan-
ized October, 1866, adopting a new covenant and constitu-
tion November 19, 1866. In 1892 the constitution was


again revised. Mr. Johnson's resignation was accepted
September 27, 1869, when resolutions of the most favorable
character were adopted commending Brother Johnson and
his work, also that of Mrs. Johnson.

Rev. Asher Moore served from December 14, 1869, to
March 27, 1871. Rev. J. M. Paine began November 13, 1871,
serving to November 25, 1872. Rev. J. J. Twiss served
from January, 1873, to April i, 1875. December I, 1875,
Rev. L. P. Blackford began one of the longest pastorates in
the history of the society, serving as pastor to February,
1884, a period of eight years two months. Rev. S. G. Davis
was next called to take up the work as pastor on the first
Sunday in May, 1884, resigning June 21, 1886, but continued
to supply the pulpit for some time.

On May 22, 1887, Rev. G. W. Jenkins began a happy
pastorate, which terminated with his death, which occurred
Sunday, October 16, 1892. During his administration
January I, 1890, found the society actually free from debt,
and it was then resolved not to incur a debt again.

On May i, 1893, Charles A. Bidwell began his labors,
which continued to July 31, 1895. The first Sunday in
January, 1896, Rev. Marion Crosley became pastor, which
relation existed until October i, 1898. On September i,
1899, the present pastorate began.

At Greeneville Congregational Church on Sunday
morning, Rev. C. H. Ricketts preached a church historical
sermon, which was heard with much interest. He said:

This section of "the Rose of New England," still
retaining the old name of Greeneville, came into existence
about the year 1828. It was in this year that the Water
Power company was incorporated with a capital of $43,000
for the purpose, as the old records say, "of building a dam
and canal in order to bring the waters of the Shetucket
river into manufacturing use." William P. Greene, from
whom the village evidently derived its name, was the largest
stockholder and the moving spirit.


He had previously purchased the land known in those
days as Sachem's Plain, extending from the junction
of the Shetucket and Quinebaug rivers, on both sides, for
the distance of three miles.

Immediately the old Shetucket dam was built of solid
masonry, and a canal dug forty-five feet wide, nine feet deep,
and seven-eighths of a mile in length. The old Shetucket
cotton mill was the first of our manufacturing enterprises,
to be followed by the Chelsea Paper Manufacturing com-
pany, at one time said to be the largest paper-making
establishment in the world.

Our fathers did not allow great business enterprises to
crowd out their religious duties. Religious services were
held from the very beginning of our community life, but
definite organization dates back to January 18, 1833, when
twenty men banded themselves together as the Greeneville
Ecclesiastical society, and among that number are not a
few that have had much to do in the material development
of Norwich. Among the number who signed that first call
are Samuel Morey, William H. Coit, Benjamin Durfey,
Oliver Woodworth, Nathan Sears and Nathan P. Avery.
There is every reason to believe that at the same time steps
were regularly taken to form a Congregational church in
this newly settled community, for the names of the original
or charter members are preserved. They are as follows:
Nathan P. Avery, Eunice A. Avery, afterward the wife of
Harland Hyde ; Mary Avery, William H. Coit, Mrs.
Cornelia E. Coit, Noah Davis, Jonathan R. Davis, Mrs.
Mary (Cornin) Davis, Benjamin Durfey, Ardelia E. Durfey,
Harvey Lathrop, Mary M. Lathrop, Octavia Lathrop,
Samuel Morey, Wilson Potter, Mrs. Cynthia Potter, Asa
Peck, Mrs. Lydia Peck, Walter O. Pearl and Mrs. Esther

It naturally followed that provision should be made
for a sanctuary and parsonage. Accordingly, between the
years 1833 and 1835 a meeting house and a parsonage
were built. The church was first known as the Fourth
Congregational church of Norwich, but after the abandon-


ment of the Third church in 1842, it received the latter name
in the order of organization, although its locality has forced
upon it the name of the Greeneville Congregational church.

According to the records of January 18, 1833, Samuel
Morey, William H. Coit, and Benjamin Durfey were con-
stituted the first committee of the Ecclesiastical society to
engage a pulpit supply, and Rev. Dennis Platt was secured
for the ensuing three months, but probably remained to the
close of the year 1833.

At a regular meeting of the society held in January,
1834, a call was given to the Rev. John Storrs of Williman-
tic, who accepted and labored one year. During 1835 and
1836 the pulpit was supplied for the most part by the Rev.
Spencer Beard, but in 1837 a call was extended to the Rev.
Stephen Crosby, but owing to a period of financial depres-
sion the installation was deferred and his death oc-
curred before it was effected. Next came Rev. A. L.
Whitman, who remained until 1846. For ten years the
spiritual affairs of the village were in the able and faithful
hands of the Rev. C. P. Bush, whose daughter is endeared
to us through our missionary aid to her work in India. At
the close of his labors in 1856, Rev. Robert P. Stanton was
called, and his pastorate of twenty-three years is the longest
in the history of the church. It was a period marked by
great material and spiritual prosperity, the church building
being enlarged in 1867, and the present pipe organ provided
in 1876.

Mr. Stanton closed his labors in the year 1880, and the
same year marked the installation of the Rev. Andrew J.
Sullivan. In 1888, the Rev. Thomas Simms entered on his
work as pastor, which he faithfully carried on till 1892,
the year in which the Rev. Lewis Barney accepted the
pastorate. During Mr. Barney's term of service extensive
repairs were made upon the church property at a consider-
able cost.

The present pastorate began in 1897 and is the second
longest in the history of the church. During this time be-
tween four and five thousand dollars have been raised


toward the liquidation of our church debt, the parsonage
has been improved, and the church and ecclesiastical society
have been legally consolidated. The early records contain
such names as Samuel Morey, Oliver Woodworth, Benjamin
Durfey, William H. Coit, William P. Greene, Nathan P.
Avery, Rufus Sibley, David Torrance, and others who have
shown that the ministry of this church has not been in vain
in the production of men of character.

During these seventy-six years of history, our com-
munity has been signally blessed of God, and still this period
has been marked by many serious events which, to our
imperfect understanding, are regarded as calamities.

The most serious blow that ever came to our Sunday
school, by way of the loss of life, was on April 13, 1844,
when four young lads met a terrible death by the explosion
of a powder magazine near the corner of Boswell avenue and
the present Hickory street. If one were to enumerate those
who have lost their lives or were seriously injured in these
factories, the list would be a long one, containing the names
of some of our leading families. Notwithstanding all this,
as a church and as a community, we have abundant reason
for thanking God for his "loving kindness and tender
mercy." If we are grateful for the past, the reasons are
strong why we should enter heartily into the 25oth anni-
versary celebration of our town.

At the Taftville Congregational Church, Sunday morn-
ing, Rev. Donald B. MacLane, pastor, gave an address on
"Indian, English and Bible Names," saying, in part, as
follows :

I. Indian Names. There are many Indian names in
the vicinity, and this fact shows that the land was once the
home of the Indians.

Our three rivers are the Yantic, the Shetucket and the
Quinebaug all Indian names.

Then there is Wauregan and Mohegan and Occum,
and Mystic and Niantic, and Narragansett and Connecticut.
In Taftville we have the Wequonnoc school and the
Ponemah mill.


Mr. MacLane went on to show how not only around
Norwich but all over the country the land is full of Indian
names. Lakes and rivers and cities and states almost
half the states bear Indian names.

The Indians have disappeared, but their beautiful,
picturesque names will stand forever a monument to their
memory. And every Indian name reminds us that our
land was first the home of the Indians.

II. English Names. One finds many English names,
too. And every English name reminds us that the first
white settlers of our land came from England.

So we have Norwich, named after Norwich in England ;
the Thames and New London, named after the old Thames
and the old London in England.

In the state of Connecticut, east of the Connecticut
river, all the following towns are named after places in
England; Norwich, New London, Colchester, Preston,
Andover, Bolton, Coventry, Mansfield, Stafford, Willington,
Ashford, Canterbury, Hampton, Woodstock, Enfield, East
Windsor, Manchester, Glastonbury, Marlborough, Portland,

And if we looked further afield through the country at
large we would find the same thing true; thousands of
places in the United States bear second-hand names bor-
rowed from England.

Our land indeed is a New England ; England is the great
mother country of America. A Yankee is an Englishman
after all, for the Indians tried to say "English" when the
white men came, and the nearest they could get to it was
"Yankee." So the word "Yankee" is an Indian corruption
of the word "English." And the land of America is a first
cousin of the land of England.

The United States always has been and always will be
predominately English in language, in government, in civ-
ilization and in character. The red rose is the national
flower of old England. And our city of Norwich is the
Rose of New England.


III. Bible Names. There are many places in the
neighborhood that bear Bible names. For example, a few
miles north and west of Norwich we find Lebanon and
Goshen and Salem, Bozrah and Hebron and Gilead all
Bible names.

And if we looked further afield we would find enough
Bible names in our country to make us think it was a New

But Bible names were given to people even more than
to places. I made a careful study of the tombstones in the
old Norwich Town cemetery, and I found all these curious
names : Zabdiel, Abiel, Ezekiel, Jabez, Jerusha, Hezekiah,
Zerviah, Asa, Bela, Phila, Jedidiah, Azariah, Zephaniah,
Eliphalet, Ebenezer, Epaphras, Eleazer, Phineas, Zilpah.

Then, too, I found that many of the ladies in those old
days bore names of Christian virtues. For example, I found
in the Norwich Town cemetery: Patience, Prudence, Con-
sider, Mercy, Thankfull, Wealthy, Civil, Desire, Patia,

These names seem barbarous to us, but they seemed
beautiful to them. For they were all Bible names. People
loved their Bible in those days. They searched the
scriptures diligently. They delighted in God's Holy Word.
They were Pilgrims. And so they delighted to name their
children after the names of God's people of old.

It is a glory and a boast for our country that its
founders were a religious, Christian, God-fearing people.
And if America is the best of lands to-day it is in large
measure due to the fact that it was founded and established
by a pious folk.

May our country prize and cherish the precious heritage
of religion bequeathed to us by our Pilgrim fore-fathers.

At Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, Sunday morn-
ing, Rev. Dr. M. S. Kaufman preached on "Methodism's
Contribution to the Higher Life of Norwich," from the text
Acts 17:6, and said:

What Christianity was to the apostolic age Methodism
has been in large measure to modern times. The Wesleys


and their coadjutors were great disturbers. So radical
were they in their opposition to the deadening formal-
ities and the ruinous vices of the eighteenth century
that the doors of the established church were shut against
them. There was nothing left for them to do, as conscien-
tious men, but to make their appeal to the common people
and to God. This they did with telling effect. While
Methodism flourished in other parts of this new continent,
New England regarded it as an intruder. But God knew
what was best for this highly favored part of the country bet-
ter than the early settlers knew. Hence He granted them the
rich blessings which Methodism came to bestow and in spite
of much opposition this branch of Christ's church made for
itself a place of power. Through its evangelistic spirit and
frequent revivals it gathered multitudes of converts many
of whom found their way into sister denominations to be
among their best workers and brightest jewels, both in
pulpit and pew. To my thought it is one of the highest
honors ever won by our beloved church, that it has been
able, under divine inspiration, to do so much toward helping
to build up other religious communions. This has been its
record in every city of New England. In so far as I can
ascertain here in Norwich it has never been favored with
any considerable number of wealthy people. But it has been
greatly honored in having been entrusted with those finer
forces of life the intellectual and ethical and spiritual
forces. Its chief contributions to the good name and worthy
character of Norwich have been to its higher life.

The preacher then traced the origin and in brief the his-
tory of the Methodist church at Norwich Town mother of
all the others the first church at the landing, which was
finally carried off down the river in a terrific storm the
Sachem street, East Main, Greeneville, Central and Trinity.
For many years there were five Methodist churches
here manned by faithful, godly, useful ministers, who
preached with power the glorious doctrines. Revivals were
frequent. Our pulpits have always stood for evangelical
truth and experience for piety, deep, genuine, practical.


They have thundered against error, against low and degrad-
ing practices and all forms of demoralizing amusement,
against human slavery and the shameful ravages of intem-
perance. Their unswerving fealty to high Biblical stand-
ards aided in toning up the moral and spiritual ideals of the
town. Through their Sunday schools and young people's
organizations, their love feasts, class meetings and prayer
meetings and family worship they mightily impressed for
noble character the children and youth of their homes.
From all that has been thus far pointed out it is evident that
Methodism has made large and valuable contributions to

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Online LibraryWilliam C GilmanThe celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town of Norwich, Connecticut, and of the incorporation of the city, the one hundred and twenty-fifth, July 4, 5, 6, 1909: → online text (page 15 of 19)